Qataris Enter Panic Mode After Arab States Cut Diplomatic Ties

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Yemen announced that they would halt diplomatic relations and close borders with Qatar amid an escalating regional feud

People buy snacks at a shop in Doha, on June 5, 2017.Saudi Arabia also closed its borders with Qatar, effectively blocking food and other supplies exported by land to Qatar after Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting extremism, in the biggest diplomatic crisis to hit the region in years. Local media in Qatar reported there was already some panic buying as people stock up on food. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images) — AFP/Getty Images
Jun 05, 2017 at 10:10 AM ET

Qataris are emptying the shelves of their local supermarkets and flocking to social media to alleviate mass confusion after Saudi Arabia and four other Arab states announced on Monday that they would be cutting diplomatic and economic ties because of Qatar’s “embrace of terrorist groups.”

The decision comes amid an escalating diplomatic crisis between the Saudi-led Sunni Arab alliance and Qatar, which Saudi Arabia has accused of supporting Islamic groups and of reaching out to its archenemy, Iran. Citizens of the five countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain, and Yemen — are no longer allowed to travel to Qatar or pass through it, and residents and visitors in Qatar must leave within fourteen days.

Saudi Arabia’s official press agency issued a statement on Monday saying that the decision was made “as a result of [Qatar’s] serious and systematic violations over the past years, with the aim of creating strife among Saudi internal ranks,” and embracing “Iranian-backed terrorist groups” in the region.

Translation: Embarrassing scene. People in Doha are hurrying to the markets to stock food after the closure of the border.

Doha News, a local outlet, reported that Qatari residents rushed to the supermarkets to stock up on food items after waking up to the news of the diplomatic crisis.

In 2013, 38 percent of Qatar’s food was transported across its Saudi land border. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also Qatar’s top two trading partners, according to recent data.

In addition to border closures, UAE-based airlines Emirates and Etihad announced that they would suspend all flights to and from Doha starting on Tuesday. The five Arab countries also declared that they would be closing their airspace and seaports with Qatar, which could cause flight cancellations or changed flight paths for the country’s largest airlines, Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways has yet to make any official announcement regarding the situation, which has created high levels of uncertainty among travelers who already booked flights with the carrier.

On Monday morning, Qatar’s stock market plunged as oil prices jumped. Market observers will track Qatar, which is an OPEC member, to see if it will renege on earlier deals to limit oil production.

“Overall it’s not good. I don’t think that the region has been in such turmoil so close to home,” Mohammed Ali Yasin, chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s NBAD Securities told Reuters. “Everyone is hoping that there will be intervention by wise people and things will cool down. But what we have seen is a gradual escalation.”